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4th grade animal adaptations

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Amy Thomas Amy Thomas 485 Points

Hello, I was just curious if anyone knew of any lesson plan idea dealing with animal adaptations?  I'm sure there are millions of ways to come up with fun ways to teach 4th graders about animals adapting to their environment. I am a student teacher and don't have very much experience teaching science.   Thank you!

Avory Abordonado Avory Abordonado 485 Points

I was recently at the NSTA conference in L.A. last spring and saw a couple of 4th grade team teachers do a unit on adaptation. They started with having students observe individual ants in clear containers and integrating Math by tilting the container at different angles to observe how the ants behaved and reacted. The students followed up by doing and Engineering Mimicry challenge in which they had to invent an adaptive or new body part that their chosen animal would need in a different habitat.


Amerah Hashim Amerah Hashimi 1090 Points

Hi Amy! I'm a student teacher as well, and I'm placed in 4th grade as well! We haven't done adaptations yet, however, I remember analyzing an elaborate lesson plan for one of our curriculum courses and part of the assignment was assessing to see whether an activity was a good performance test. The assignenment required students to look at fictional aliens (which are like parallels to animals) with various skin types, feathers, beaks, and combinations of features that hint at certain adaptations. The students would have to conclude and infer what kind of climate and ecosystem that alien came from by simply reading the descriptions of the aliens and looking at an illustration of it. The activity seemed to be really engaging for kids. Some of the GT kids even created their own alien with specific adaptations to its environment. It really got the creative juices flowing! I hope this inspires some ideas! Sincerely, Amerah

Sara Pierce Sara Pierce 3922 Points

I am student teaching in the Spring, this was very helpful!

Hi Amy, I am also a student teacher and I just did an assignment where I prepared a learning segment for my 6th grade classroom. My topic was natural selection and I focused on adaptation and traits. One of the activities I used in my lessons was a categorical game. I had sets animal cards with the picture and animal name on them. Each table group gets a set their goal being to make categories based on physical traits. For example, animals with long ears, sharp teeth, or long tails. Then you want students to explore which traits signal adaptations (which traits are beneficial to the organisms in terms of surviving in their environment). There are also a lot of lessons online teaching about this idea through the Galapagos Finches. Also, here is a great video to use!   Jessica :)

Lauren Galindo Lauren Galindo 375 Points

Amy, I have been looking at a very similar topic and have been having some trouble myself. One idea however, that I was able to come up with is some sort of game for students to play. In this game the students will almost develop traits as they move on through the game. As their group or team develops more and more traits their team starts to grow. After the game is finished, have students discuss the relationship between the team growing and the new found trait.

Erin Jasso Erin Jasso 380 Points

I feel like a "Survival of the Fittest" type game here would be fun for the kids. They could see how animals started and then go on to see what kind of trait they would have to develop to survive and then keep going from there until they get to today's animals. They could even play it into the future and predict what kind of traits animals will have to develop to continue surviving.

Shelby Rhodes Shelby Rhodes 815 Points

Hello! So I am about to begin my semester of student teaching and in the process of taking my 4/5/ generalist courses. I am inexperienced with teaching science as well, especially 4/5 but I hope I can provide you with a resource that I have found interesting. So in ECE (my teaching field) I have had students participate in animal adaptations by having a variety of different sized grasping materials (straws, spoons, tweezers, etc.) along with different sized uncooked beans and they had to use their materials to pick up the beans. This activity related to how birds beaks have adapted over time in order for survival. This website contains a similar activity for students to be hands-on and engaged with when learning about insects and their adaptations for survival. This is a lesson plan that should be modified in order to fit the needs of your students but it is a good base tool to use when planning for an adaptation lesson. Also there are a variety of books that can be correlated to adaptation, integrating language arts and science.

Jasmin Romo Jasmin Romo 975 Points

I remember in college taking a class that we played a game about survival of the fittest. This game would be fun to play with kids. They could see how animals started and then go on to see what kind of trait they would have to develop to survive and then keep going from there until they get to today's animals. Here is a link on animal adaptation activities

Sara Pierce Sara Pierce 3922 Points

Great resource! Thank you!

Jaclyn Lawrence Jaclyn Lawrence 655 Points Here are some great websites to help you in teaching animal adaptations!

Sarah Benton Feitlinger Sarah Benton 1775 Points

I know this post was from a while ago, but I'm sure there are still people out there looking for adaptation activities. It's one of my favorite topics to teach! Here are three posts from my blog that include adaptation activities: Sloth Day and create-a-creature activity: Sloth, Armadillo and Anteater Adaptation Scavenger hunt: Plant Seed Adaptations/Engineering Challenge:

Amber Swander Amber Swander 595 Points

I did an activity last year with my students about animal adaptions. The students were given a list of animals and they had to create their own zoo. They had to figure out why certain animals wouldn't go with other animals and they really enjoyed it. It was also good to hit on compare and contrast. I attached a website that was very helpful for me when planning my lesson.

 Beth Topinka 165 Points

Adaptation instruction is a super opportunity for combining (bundling) NGSS standards. For example, my 4th grade students last year researched animal eye adaptations. There are some astonishing examples of eye adaptations, such as a 3rd eyelid/membrane for protection when flying (or seeing underwater), retina membranes that reflect light for night hunting, pupil shapes that optimize peripheral vision for spotting sneaky predators, etc. Check out a mantis shrimp! My students made models of their animal eyes with a partner using craft supplies and recycled items, and we invited parents in to tour the displays where partners explained the special structures of each eye model and how the eye functions to help the animal survive. This addressed standards 4-LS1-1 and 4-LS1-2 as well as the Science and Engineering Practice of constructing a model to describe phenomena and the crosscutting concept of Structure and Function. This year I am planning to have students make eardrum models using Science Friday's education site activity 'Create a Model Eardrum to Detect Sound Waves,' which will also address NGSS standard 4-PS4-3.

With limited time for science instruction in elementary classrooms, I'm sure many teachers are finding creative ways to bundle NGSS standards. Please share your ideas! Thanks!

Courtney Johannssen Courtney Johannssen 710 Points

Animal adaptations is one of my favorite things to teach my students about. I am attaching a set of task cards that I have used for this concept. I place them around the room and the students walk and answer on the provided sheet. The task cards are more for a review, or end of unit lesson though.


Avory Abordonado Avory Abordonado 485 Points

Thanks for sharing! It's always good to have new resources every now and then.

Brittney Geelhaar Brittney Geelhaar 760 Points

I am an elementary education student and just planned/ executed a lesson for a large number of sixth graders involving animal adaptations. In my research, I came across this lesson and, while I didn't borrow much from it other than adapting the animal creation idea, maybe it will help you in planning your lesson. For the students I was instructing, instead of simply having them draw a picture or make a 3D representation of the creature, I am having them model the specific adaptation they wish to highlight with various materials and be able to demonstrate how that adaptation helps them survive. While they aren't building their models until Monday, they seemed to be enjoying the planning stages! I also supported my lesson with a lot of visuals, examples, and even a guest animal! I also highlighted some very unusual/ specialized adaptations (such as the long, bony finger of the Aye Aye) in order to help inspire them, as well. Just a few ideas. Hope it helps!

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